Genetically altered wheat found mysteriously in an Eastern Oregon farm recently has been under sharp investigation. Farmers are worried because wheat harvest, set for July with Oregon crops valued at over $300 million, are now facing a possible major loss -as Asian countries (some of the biggest importers) are not interested in buying GMO products.
The wheat was discovered when farmers tried to kill a rogue patch of wheat in their field with a Monsanto weedkiller that did not die. Testing at Oregon State University revealed a gene resistant to glyphosate, the key ingredient in biotech giant’s product.
Asian markets are not the only ones with concern, as local Northwest consumers are adamant about avoid genetically modified foods as well. Washington State conducted tests on some of the wheat near them finding no genetically altered strains in their fields.
Even though no genetically modified wheat has actually been approved for farming anywhere in the U.S., there was some testing done in 16 states on over 100 fields some years ago just to test what Monsanto called ‘Ready Roundup Wheat.’ That testing went on between 1998 and 2005 in Oregon, Hawaii, California, Idaho, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Washington and Wyoming. Today it is Oregon who faces the possible loss of millions due to wheat contamination, but will some of these other states follow suit?
Monsanto claims some kind of sabotage has taken place, farmers wonder the same thing. The only logical possibilities would point to wheat blowing from a test zone and planting themselves or someone intentionally planting them. It wouldn’t take much for seeds to be blown through the air, however, and even though the testing was done over seven years ago, it is very possible that this problem could pop up all over the United States. How can you isolate agricultural production when food is meant to be assisted in it’s pollination by nature – the wind?
Some claim that though Monsanto tested white spring wheat and Oregon farmers found winter wheat, the resistant strain, that perhaps the wheat was simply too mature to take the weedkiller and was not the result of Monsanto or wind pollination. Hmmm? An interesting argument for sure, though this seems to be the first case of it’s kind. Are we becoming so paranoid in farming due to the growing debate on genetically modified foods that we are actually creating the problems we fear?
The FDA and USDA say the genetically modified wheat is safe to eat (of course they do), though consumers at home and abroad – especially in Europe and Asia -are dead set against importing food with such alterations. While Oregon faces the possible loss of millions of dollars of wheat this season, investigations continue to find out where the stray strains came from. Monsanto is doing everything they can to not claim responsibility for this episode, even though the wheat, in all likelihood, came from them.
Perhaps we ought to match food policies with the rest of the world we are trading with if we want to continue to import and export products around the globe. It doesn’t take a genius to predict what may continue to happen if we insist on growing genetically altered food in this country and how it will affect the global market. Europe and Asia have already made it quite clear that they are against consuming biotech food. There is no way to keep a handle on and ‘isolate’ such food production in this country, as we are starting to see. If we want to proceed in friendly food relations with the world and not face losing possibly millions or billions in export revenue as Oregon faces now, GMO has got to go.
Written by: Stasia Bliss